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Technology keeps advancing at a rapid pace. While these advancements benefit people, they sometimes are not so good for the environment.
As technology improves, we discard electronics at an alarming rate -- everything from iPods, printers and computers to cameras, TVs and tablets. After all, it’s easier to buy new computers than upgrade old models, it’s cheaper to buy such new gadgets as game consoles and DVD players than to fix old ones, and it’s more exciting to have an iPhone XS, with its new colors and camera, than the iPhone 6.
We call this electronic waste, or e-waste, and Americans produce a lot of it. In fact, we toss about 9.4 million tons of electronics into the trash each year, making the U.S. the No. 1 producer of e-waste. Meanwhile, we’re recycling just 12.5 percent of our electronics. This practice isn’t sustainable.
First, it takes a staggering amount of valuable resources to produce electronics. The more we make, the more resources, such as water, precious metals and fossil fuels, we use.
Second, e-waste takes up valuable space in our landfills, which can accommodate only a finite amount of material.
Fortunately, there are sustainable ways to address e-waste. But like all environmental issues, the solution requires effort on everyone’s part.
You can help by using your electronics a little longer before you purchase a newer model. If something is broken, try fixing it before replacing it. And if you simply don’t want or need an item, donate it. Old mobile phones, for example, can be refurbished and given to people who couldn’t otherwise afford one.
If none of these ideas is an option, then please recycle your e-waste. That doesn’t mean putting it in your curbside recycling container, however. You’ll have to take your e-waste to a location that accepts it. SWACO can help you find an e-waste drop-off site. Simply go to our “Recycling & Reuse Search Tool” on our website at swaco.org/Recycle-Now for a list of places that accept e-waste for recycling.
SWACO also has an e-waste diversion program that many Franklin County communities participate in. In partnership with SWACO, these communities hold e-waste collection events at different sites throughout the year. Call your community to find out when it will hold its next event.
When you recycle e-waste, you help to conserve limited natural resources and preserve landfill space.
Furthermore, recycling e-waste supports jobs in our community, as well as the creation of new products. All e-waste in Franklin County is sorted and taken apart before being shredded in giant shredding machines. Then, using a variety of methods, the material is separated by type: iron, steel, glass, plastic, aluminum, etc. Manufacturers then purchase these materials for use in making new items.
So if you’re wondering what to do with that old mobile phone, flat-screen TV or gaming system, don’t toss it in the trash. Instead, recycle it right.
Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about SWACO’s operations can be directed to him at [email protected]. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.